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Legislature holds special session on disaster relief – and taxes?

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The Minnesota Legislature plans to meet Monday for special session to approve disaster relief money for 18 counties ravaged by June storms.

Legislative leaders and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to narrow the scope of the one-day session to action on that issue alone. Storms did about $18 million in damage to public infrastructure, and the federal government will pick up 75 percent of the tab if state lawmakers agree to foot the rest of the bill, about $4.7 million.

The damage was in the counties of Benton, Big Stone, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, McLeod, Morrison, Pope, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Wilkin. Cleanup efforts are well under way, the St. Cloud Times notes.

But there may also be a lot of talk at the Capitol about taxes, and perhaps the introduction of a few bills, MPR notes.

Republican leaders had wanted to use the special session to also repeal three new taxes, on business equipment repairs, warehouse services and on purchases of telecommunication equipment. They may use the special session to spotlight their concerns and perhaps introduce bills, even though there could be no action on them.

Democratic leaders, including Dayton, were willing to consider a much more limited repeal – of the tax on farm equipment repair, MPR notes. A new KSTP poll suggests public support for the repeal of the new tax on equipment repairs.

But there will be plenty of time to talk taxes again when next year's regular session gets under way, Senate Majority leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, told MPR.

The session is set to start at 10 a.m. and must be over by 7 a.m. Tuesday as part of the negotiated agreement among Dayton and legislative leaders, Forum Communications reports. The money to be approved today will be funneled to local governments for public infrastructure; home and business owners are not eligible, Forum notes.

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune's editorial board argues for the creation of a state disaster relief fund, which the Star Tribune says would allow for state money to be tapped more efficiently after storms, instead of requiring a $32,000-a-day special session.

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